A blog post by Grace Duddy
A few weeks ago I led an intergenerational adult forum called “Talking about Money Together” at a local congregation. Everyone from kindergartners to great-grandparents was invited to join in the conversation. During the forum, we discussed the various beliefs that feed our money habits. One belief that feeds many people’s money habits is: “My money belongs to me, and I can do with it what I want.”
Money Wallet by 401(K) 2012 on Flickr
We believe that our money belongs to us and whatever we do with our money is our decision. We can choose to spend our money on whatever we like, maybe even give some of it away. After all, it is our hard earned money.
Yet, the Bible says that all that I have and all that I am belong to God. David writes in the psalms, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). It all belongs to God, not to us. We are called to be stewards, or managers, of all that God has entrusted to our care -- time, talents, treasure, and so much more! My money isn’t mine, it’s God’s. How would God have me manage God’s money?
Congregations feed this belief when they preach the traditional children’s sermon on tithing. You have most likely heard this sermon before. The pastor begins by giving each of the children 10 coins and says that one of those is supposed to go to God (the tithe) and the rest you can keep for yourself. The only thing that God cares about is the 10%, not the other 90%. This is not what the Bible says!
As Rolf Jacobson writes, “We are mistakenly telling people that what they give to church -- both in terms of time and in terms of treasure -- matters to God; but what they give at home -- in terms of time and in terms of treasure – does not matter to God . . . here is what we should say: Because we belong to God, everything about us belongs to God: our selves, our bodies, our families, our time, our relationships -- even our possessions. In light of that, how do those people who belong to God, regard their belongings?”
At the forum, I explained this concept to the children by using the example of pet-sitting. When you watch someone else’s pet, the pet is not yours, and you do not treat it that way. You follow the owner’s instructions carefully, putting their interests first. You likely treat that pet even better than you would your own pet. Just like you cared for that dog or cat, we are called to care for everything God has trusted us with, including money. We are to put God’s interests first and follow God’s instructions.
Because God owns it, what we do with money makes a big difference. As Nathan Dungan, Founder and President of Share Save Spend, says, “The choices we make with our money can change the world.” What we do with the money God has entrusted to us has the power to affect change throughout the world. How we acquire, spend, save, and share money matters not just for us, but for our communities and for the world. The way that we use money is one of the many ways that we live out the gospel with our whole life.
If we want to talk about money together as a family and as a church, we have to dispel this prevailing belief about money. It isn’t our money, it is God’s. Thus, what we do with all of the money that God has entrusted to us matters. We get the wonderful opportunity to manage some of what is God’s and use it to do God’s work in the world. We get to use all of the resources that God has entrusted to us, not just money, to love God and our neighbors with our whole selves.
Grace Duddy is a Midwest native and self-proclaimed Millennial with a passion for frugality, stewardship, and young adults. She moved north to attend St. Olaf College and then Luther Seminary. She is currently working as the Assistant Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary. She is the author of the new stewardship resource Stewards of God’s Love and the blog Frugal-Community that offers tips for living a fun and frugal life on a graduate student’s budget. When she is not thinking about stewardship, you can find her reading in a comfy chair, hiking in the woods, or in the kitchen cooking with her fiancé.